Time recites a litany of dreadful events that have marked the years 2000-2010, but it goes relatively easy on the guy who occupied the White House for most of that period.
Time even includes an online photo gallery titled "The 10 Worst Things About the Worst Decade Ever." But it fails to mention what might be the most profound debacle of the 2000s: The criminalization of the U.S. justice system. Thanks to the political prosecutions of Don Siegelman (Alabama) and Paul Minor (Mississippi), those of us who live in the Deep South are acutely aware of how the Department of Justice has been used as a political weapon.
What has made the 2000s "The Decade From Hell"? Here's how Time puts it:
Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era.
For the most part, we can't blame the miserable decade on wars. Writes Time's Andy Serwer:
Calling the 2000s "the worst" may seem an overwrought label in a decade in which we fought no major wars, in historical terms. It is a sadly appropriate term for the families of the thousands of 9/11 victims and soldiers and others killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the lack of a large-scale armed conflict makes these past 10 years stand out that much more. This decade was as awful as any peacetime decade in the nation's entire history.
So why did Time ignore justice issues when examining the 2000s? Editors at Time probably would argue that wrongdoing in the Justice Department has not been proven--and that the perpetrators have not been fully identified. They probably would say that the story is still evolving--and they would have a point.
We would argue that a number of stories on their list--the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the market meltdown, the implosion of the automobile industry--are still evolving. The problem with the justice story, we suspect, is that it is spread out and not easy to grasp in a single view. Plus, much of the skulduggery surely took place behind closed doors, and neither journalists nor oversight groups have unearthed much of it.
But the evidence of gross wrongdoing is there--in the firings of U.S. attorneys, in the transcripts from the Siegelman and Minor trials--and Time should have addressed it.
Most of the events that Time examines, both in print and online, can be placed in three categories:
* International disasters--Afghanistan and Iraq wars; attacks of 9/11
* Natural disasters--Hurricane Katrina; Asian tsunami
* Financial disasters--market meltdown; Bernie Madoff; auto industry
The closest Time comes to political corruption is a brief mention of the Jack Abramoff episode.
Is it a coincidence that all of these events took place while George W. Bush and his band of criminals were in power? To read Time, you would think it was. But for pretty much every disaster that is mentioned, the Bush administration either caused it to happen or failed to manage it properly after it happened.
What makes the justice story so important? It goes to an abuse of our government's basic machinery--and it happened at home, right under our noses. Yes, there was government incompetence both before and after Katrina. And yes, the 9/11 attacks were a colossal failure with international repercussions.
But the criminalization of our justice system is a purely domestic story. And evidence suggests that it goes beyond mere incompetence to truly evil intent. In a scene right out of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union, the Bush administration used our courts to imprison political opponents.
Our guess is that the Bush administration engaged in criminal acts on a number of fronts. But the justice story--where innocent people where prosecuted and imprisoned for purely political reasons--might be the most grotesque criminal enterprise of all.
It goes right to the heart of the ugly Bush years. And that's probably why Time wanted no part of it.